Vatican City is the smallest independent state in the world in terms of inhabitants and size. It occupies an area of 44 hectares. The borders are represented by its walls and the travertine pavement curve that joins the two wings of the colonnades in St Peter’s Square. Beyond the proper territory of the State, Vatican jurisdiction also covers some extraterritorial areas within and outside Rome.
Vatican City State was founded following the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy on February 11th 1929.
These were ratified on June 7th 1929. Its nature as a sovereign State distinct from the Holy See is universally recognized under international law.
The term Vatican was used in ancient times to identify the marshy area on the right bank of the Tiber River, between the Milvio Bridge and the present Sixtus Bridge. During the monarchy and the republican age, the area was known asAger Vaticanus. It extended northwards as far as the mouth of the Cremera and southwards at least as far as the Janiculum. In the Imperial age, from the 2nd century A.D., the toponym Vaticanum was applied to an area corresponding roughly to the present Vatican City State.
Vatican City State is governed as an absolute monarchy. The Head of State is the Pope who holds full legislative, executive and judicial powers.
During a sede vacante (between the death of a Pope and the election of his successor), these powers are exercised by the College of Cardinals.
The Pope is elected by the Cardinals who are under eighty years of age. He becomes Sovereign of Vatican City State the moment he accepts his election as Pope.